2016 Lucia Vineyards byPisoni, Syrah, Susan’s Hill, Pisoni Estate, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Aging beautifully, the Lucia Susan’s Hill Syrah, coming from the oldest vines at the Pisoni Estate, this wine is reaching its potential with deep flavors and layering that fooled me into thinking it was a top Cote-Rotie when I recently tasted it blind! This supple, vinous and dark purple/garnet 2016 shows classic Northern Rhone character and warm ripe California richness on the full bodied palate with nicely evolving boysenberry, damson plum, black currant and cherry fruits that are accented by crushed violets, espresso bean, burnt embers, grilled herbs, liquid mineral, subtle tapenade, earth, anise and well judged cedary/smoky wood. I honestly, first thought this was Giugal’s Chateau d’Ampuis or maybe a Rostaing La Landonne, so brilliant and complete this wine showed, I also found out it had been open for 24 hours, though didn’t lose any freshness of detail and highlighted the outstanding structural core here. The Pisoni’s have mature Estrella clone Syrah plantings at the Pisoni Vineyard, different from the selections at Soberanes and Garys’, but there’s no weakness in this version as grown here in this terroir and made by the hugely talented winemaker Jeff Pisoni, who along with his wife Bibiana (Cattleya Wines), really has a touch with this grape. The grip and savory elements are perfectly folded in and this wine is hitting its stride with an exceptional lengthy finish that echos the first impression of a fine Northern Rhone expression and lingers on with delicate creme de cassis.

Jeff Pisoni has a state-of-the-art winemaking facility in the Santa Rosa area and it exclusively uses gravity flow to move the wines, ensuring quality, with total control of the farming and winemaking process from start to finish. This wine, one of my absolute favorites, has lots more to offer and will evolve nicely for another three to five years with ease. As mentioned in prior reviews, Jeff Pisoni employs a very gentle regime with his wines, using carefully hand-picked and sorted grapes that are fermented with indigenous yeasts and with the Syrahs being aged in carefully selected French oak barrels, with typically about 30% new wood. Like I’ve said about other vintages and vineyards in the Highlands, these Syrahs, especially this wine, are pure class, and it certainly re-enforces my personal belief that Syrah here can be the equal or better than Pinot Noir in terms of quality, complexity and impact in the glass, as it loves the sandy decomposed granite soils and long growing season of the Santa Lucia Highlands. There’s so much to admire here, these modern SLH Syrahs are without question are some of Monterey’s absolute best wines, seductive from start to finish, as this one clearly demonstrates. Pisoni uses partial or 100% whole cluster depending on the year’s nuance, with more stems included when the vintage allows, with this 2016 seeing fabulous integration and there is less obvious inclusion in this lovely example. Thank you to my friend and wine professional Alex Lallos, of No Limits Fine Wines, for sneaking this wine to me from his personal collection, which includes a bunch of Pisoni’s most age worthy efforts.
($60+ Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

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